An Egyptian living in Europe but her heart stayed back home. Having some random thoughts about the before and after pictures. Ghawayesh means bracelets. In my context it symbolizes the cuffs of my culture. I don't know if I like them or hate them. Thanks for passing by.

About Me

My photo
I started this blog in 2006 as a joke. Now that I look back, I have decided to take it seriously!

02 August 2013

Pity Egypt, It Has No Liberals

Samuel Tadros

Pity Egypt, It Has No Liberals


What happened to Egypt’s liberals? Jackson Diehl’s question in the Washington Post is not a new one. In the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution and as Islamists swept every electoral competition, the question was being sincerely posed. Where have all those young champions of freedom that filled Tahrir square and captivated the world disappeared? Today a deep sense of disappointment accompanies the question. The commitment to principles by those once hailed as the founding fathers and mothers of Arab democracy evaporated at the first real test.
Mohamed Morsi’s election was not Egypt’s first experiment with democracy. In the aftermath of the 1919 revolution and after a stormy constitutional process, Egypt’s first democratic parliamentary elections were held in 1924. The elections pitted Egypt’s greatest liberal thinkers and its political elite gathered in the Liberal Constitutionalist Party against a man that five years earlier had been one of their own; Saad Zaghloul and his Wafd Party. The masses chanted “if Saad nominated a stone we would elect it” and they gave the Wafd 90 percent of the seats leaving the liberals to lick their wounds and draw lessons from their humiliating defeat.
It did not take long for the former champions of democracy to argue that Egyptians were not ready for it. How else could they explain how Wafdist candidates from undistinguished backgrounds could defeat the great landlords and thinkers of the land? With no potential for winning a free election on their own, they abandoned their slogans and tied their fortune to that of more powerful players; the King and the British. They committed every sin in their pursuit of destroying the Wafd. They plotted against it when it was in power and suppressed it when it was in opposition.
Not that the Wafd was a model of democratic behavior. Zaghloul’s first government maintained a restrictive press and associations law that it had condemned while in opposition, dismissed many civil servants replacing them with Wafd loyalists, failed to deal with Egypt’s greatest crisis; the British occupation, and when opposition newspapers criticized its actions, their headquarters were mysteriously attacked by the mob. All in all, Zaghloul’s government lasted for nine months before being forced to resign by a military ultimatum, from the British military. Egypt’s imagined Liberal Age (1923-1952) would see this episode repeated time and time again, until the whole system crumbled under the roll of the tanks led by Gamal Abdel Nasser and his fellow conspirators.
Egyptian liberalism was flawed from the start. Egyptian liberals were born, not from an independent bourgeoisie, and from the tension of the individual and the state, but from the very bosom of that state and its bureaucracy. Obsessed with modernization, they always allied themselves with the ruler, hoping that he would turn out to be an autocratic modernizer. Viewing Islam as an obstacle to modernization and drinking from the fountain of French secularism, they aimed to banish it from the public sphere and in the process grew antagonistic to Copts. Their liberalism was inherently illiberal, and what remained of it, was soon swept away as the disillusionment with liberal democracy coincided with the fascist temptation haunting Europe.
A great deal has changed in ninety years. The three military generals that ruled have taken the country left and right and finally settled down on an unexciting middle route, and Egyptian liberalism’s lot has certainly deteriorated from a flawed intellectual like Ahmed Lutfi El Sayed who for all his vices, translated Aristotle into Arabic, to a second rate international bureaucrat like Mohamed El Baradei, but the decline in the country’s fortune is a reflection of its endemic predicament. The liberals of old completely failed to build any ideological or political foundation for their ideas, and over time, those ideas became part of an amorphous amalgam of Nasserism, Socialism and nationalism. Today it is impossible to find any serious discourse in Arabic that stands on anything resembling a moral platform. That ground has been left for Islamism to occupy.
Egypt is caught between democrats who are not liberals (Muslim Brotherhood) and liberals who are not democrats, goes the popular saying. The first half is problematic. The Brotherhood’s understanding of democracy is flawed and had no room not only for minority rights, and press freedom, but to such basic concepts such as separation of powers and the rule of law. But the second half is false. Those supporting a military coup who rejoice at the repression of their political opponents and engage in the worst display of ultra nationalist discourse against the U.S. are hardly liberals. Egypt’s liberals are not flawed democrats. They are illiberal to begin with.
Samuel Tadros is a Research Fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and the author of Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity

1 comment:

Raouf said...

This view has been put out by many people in the past month.
I see the problem a bit differently:
For over half a century in Egypt freedom of expression was limited and the only real outlet was talking to like minded people in close circles. It is like always marrying from your own family, it leads to malformed offsprings.
When the internet came these discussions became public but still no real interaction between groups of opposing views so no real movement of ideas and opinions. That is why you have many thousands of positions and views. Add to that many have yet to learn to base their arguments on facts instead of emotions and rumors.

When the big change came all these were thrust forward and all have been found wanting for the same reason these proto-ideas did not have time to mature into solid political principles and directions. This happened to the MB who was found lacking in every way as well as the "liberals" and the "socialists". Egypt is still trying to get from coffee shop discussions to real problems, solutions and most important compromises.
Yes the liberals are not real liberals because they are still coffee shop liberals, so are the MB and everyone else.

Look Who's Here :D